Area school districts prepare to change course with more students learning at school

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– If COVID-19 cases trend downward, more students are expected to head back to school by the end of the month. La Crosse, Holmen, Onalaska, and Bangor are all planning for more in-person classes.

For the first time since the start of the school year, students will roam the halls of La Crosse elementary schools.

“We anticipate on Oct. 26, the conditions in the county will be at a level where we can safely bring back our elementary students,” said Aaron Engel, superintendent for the La Crosse School District.

That’s also when Onalaska is tentatively planning for in-person learning for pre-k through 8th-grade students. 9th to 12th grades would be hybrid. If the district is in its ‘orange’ category next Wednesday, in-person learning would start on Oct. 26.

Holmen 4k through 5th-grade students will go in-person and middle school students will be hybrid. High school students will have to wait to move to the hybrid model until Nov. 9, according to the district.

“It’s been our goal to get back to in-person learning for those students that really need it,” Engel said.

The districts have collaborated on their plans, but each has its own unique concerns with different buildings, classroom sizes and staffing levels.

“Based on the conditions in their community and their school buildings, they arrive at different conclusions about what they can safely do,” Engel said.

Even though they’re in La Crosse County, West Salem Superintendent Ryan Rieber said they’re sticking to their plan.

“Everything is looking good for us and so we’re going to continue on with the learning models we have right now going into next week and the foreseeable future,” said Rieber.

That means 4k through 5th-grade classes are in-person while 6th through 12th are in a blended model.

“The ‘West’ group attends Monday and Wednesday, the ‘Salem’ group attends Tuesday and Thursday,” Rieber said.

This is their second consecutive week in person. While there have been cases, there hasn’t been any spread.

“There hasn’t been any student to student, staff to student, or staff to staff sharing of the virus,” Rieber said.

He’s hopeful that success can continue and wants to be transparent about any changes.

“Part of that preparation is making sure we’re clearly communicating to staff and families as well,” Rieber said.

Some changes for area schools will happen much sooner. Bangor middle school goes to in-person and the high school switches to a hybrid next week, according to the district.